By James Veloso I Published: July 31, 2020
Browse your social media feed these days and you’ll find yourself bombarded with online offers selling nearly everything under the sun — from foodstuff to vanity products.
Online merchandising has become a part of the “new normal” of Filipinos caught in the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Restrictions brought about by the three-month enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) last March have, in fact, accelerated the already growing trend of selling products on the Internet, according to some business experts.
“I think this will continue even after quarantine and, if you think about it, these trends have always been present. Ang nangyari lang ngayong quarantine, na-accelerate siya,” noted Petrus Carbonell, Lazada Philippines head of business development, during a recent online discussion held by a prominent business daily.
Due to the ECQ, many blue-collar workers and professionals found themselves stuck at home, unable to go to their places of work due to travel restrictions.
Even store owners, in a pinch as the restrictions cut them off from their costumer base, put their businesses in jeopardy.
Fortunately, many entrepreneurs capitalized on the fact that Filipinos are one of the most active Internet users in the world, according to a 2019 report by Hootsuite.
Filipinos browse the Internet for at least 10 hours daily.
Food, Groceries Top Selling
Given the ECQ circumstances, it’s no surprise that groceries, medical items, and ready-to-eat products are top-sellers in Lazada’s online platform, according to Carbonell.
Food products, in particular, have become a hit to sell on social media. Many people see it not just as a quick way to earn extra income but also a chance to hone their “hidden” skills.
Carousell, an e-commerce platform, its chats for food and beverages segment rose by 188 percent.
“Kahit papaano, I’m blessed with cooking skills, kaya iyon ang ginagamit ko ngayon to survive since hindi pa makakabalik sa normal ang events industry,” Cristina Ramos, an events manager who started a food delivery service, told OpinYon Laguna.
“Nagshift ako sa business na alam ko and mae-enjoy ko at the same time.”
Businesses Remain Closed
The GCQ status imposed last June had not improved things for many small businesses in Laguna province with restrictions still in effect.
Suffering the most are bars, nightclubs and resorts. Under the GCQ, operating such business is still prohibited.
Among the casualties, according to food vlogging site, The South PH, are the popular Entablado Bar and Restaurant in Pacita Complex and The Chill Bar, located at San Pedro City’s downtown area.
Bookstores and stationery shops were also affected with the reduced – if not totally cut — demand brought by changes in the education system. (See cover story on page 5.)
On July 22, The South PH announced the closure of the San Vicente, San Pedro City branch of Lily’s Bookstore, a pioneer bookshop in the cities of San Pedro and Biñan.
It’s Pacita Complex branch of Lily’s remain open, although operating in limited hours.
New Store Biz Models
But there is a silver lining peeking across the economic clouds.
As some stores are temporarily, if not permanently, closing, there are other businesses successfully opening doors to the public.
In Pacita Complex in San Pedro City, Dali Everyday Grocery opened last June 30 and immediately gained clients in the area. It could be because it has an unusual business model.
Dali Grocery operates on a “no-bagger” scheme, meaning that products are displayed straight from the box and grocers themselves have to pack their groceries.
It’s one way, the company said, of keeping their prices low compared with major supermarkets.
And, at the city’s downtown area, townspeople are abuzz with the expected opening on July 28 of a new branch of a popular fast-food chain.
What made the new branch unique, according to old-timers, is that the building was once the ancestral home of the Morando-Almendrala families, one of the oldest clans of San Pedro City.
For years, the old house had served as a dry goods and clothing store before the fastfood chain took over, carefully preserving the appearance and structure of the edifice.
Biz Shift Focus
Other enterprises, meanwhile, have found themselves shifting their focus on other goods and services. Thanks to the new opportunities brought about by the pandemic.
Since its opening, last April 2019, Workspace.ph in San Pedro City primarily served as a meeting and co-working place catering to small businesses, students, and young professionals.
While it had a side business doing photocopying and printing jobs, it has never really been the main focus of the business – until the COVID-19 pandemic befell the world.
On resuming operations last June, with the imposition of GCQ status in Laguna, Workspace.ph’s staff soon found itself flooded with new customers wishing to avail of its photocopying, printing and laminating services.
In particular demand were those wishing to have their community quarantine passes issued by the local government of San Pedro laminated, a staff told OpinYon Laguna.
“I was surprised at the new trend,” Ray Junia, president of Workspace’s parent company OpinYon Media Advocacies, said. “I never thought our printing and photocopying services would be in demand, although our printing quality has been superior compared to other photocopying shops in Pacita area.”
As the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of (re)invention, indeed.